Best Protein Shake For Weight Loss and Toning, According to a Nutritionist

By Tami Smith, CPT, Nutritionist

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When I ask my clients to tell me about their goals, the answer that I hear most often is to lose weight and get toned. I love this, but what most women don’t know is that what they really want to achieve is body recomposition aka losing body fat and gaining muscle.

Most people know that losing weight will come down to eating in a calorie deficit or eating less than you’re burning. But how do you make sure that you’re not losing weight and just looking like a smaller version of your current body (“skinny fat”)?

This is where consuming enough protein and prioritizing resistance training will come into play. And one of the easiest ways to make sure that we’re getting enough protein in per day is to add convenient protein sources like a protein shake to our daily routine.

We put together a list of the best protein shakes for weight loss and toning so that you can find an option that works for you and your goals.

Quick Table of the Best Protein Shakes For Weight Loss and Toning

top protein shakes for weight loss toning

Shake

Protein

Sugar

Calories

Price

24g

3g

140

$54.99

20g

0g

115

$40

20g

1g

110

$59.99

26g

7g

170

$29.50 for 12 pack

20g

1g

110

$35.99 for 12 pack

Can I Drink Protein Shakes If I’m Trying to Lose Weight?

drink protein shakes for losing weight

Yes, you can absolutely drink protein shakes if you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, it’s highly encouraged that you do!

As a population, but more so speaking to women, we don’t get enough protein into our diets day. It’s recommended that we aim to get between.8-and 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. So, a 150-pound person should aim to get anywhere between 130-180 grams of protein in their diet per day.

Contrary to popular belief, protein shakes aren’t just for meatheads looking to make major gains. Protein is for everyone, and if you aren’t able to get in enough protein from whole foods, drinking protein shakes can 100% help you fill the gap so you can reach your goals. 

Protein plays an essential role in weight loss as it helps to keep us full and build lean muscle mass which can increase our BMR (basal metabolic rate), which means that our bodies will burn more calories at rest the more muscle mass we put on.

Do Protein Shakes Help You Lose Belly Fat?

lose belly fat protein shakes

Consuming adequate protein can help you lose weight, however, there is no way to spot reduce fat. There’s no question that protein can help you lose weight when paired with a healthy, balanced diet that’s full of whole, nutritious foods, however, we cannot control where our body lets go of the fat and on what timeline.

That said, studies show that quality protein intake is inversely related with abdominal fat. With a healthy, balanced diet that includes whole, nutritious foods and adequate protein intake and a calorie defiict, you will eventually see improvements in the amount of belly fat you’re carrying.

What to Look For When Choosing a Protein Shake for Weight Loss

how to choose protein shakes for toning weight loss

You could throw a stone and hit 10 different protein and supplement brands in your local grocery store, on Google, and on social media. But they are certainly not all created equal, which is why it’s important to know what to look for when choosing a protein that will help you lose weight and get toned.

Below are a few criteria that I recommend you consider when choosing:

Protein Content

When looking at protein shakes, one of the first things you want to pay attention to is the protein content per serving. I like to see the protein content be at least 20g per serving, but some go up to 25-30g, with the average being around 24g per serving.

One of the main reasons that you’re considering purchasing a protein supplement is to add some convenience to your diet and hit your protein goals without needing to consume endless chicken breasts, so make sure you’re getting a lot of bang for your protein buck!

Calories

Next, take a look at the calories per serving and make sure it’s in alignment with your goals. If you’re looking to lose weight and tone, then you aren’t going to want a protein shake that’s packed with a ton of additional calories.

A good choice will have somewhere between 90-130 calories per serving. The shakes that contain a lot more calories will make it harder to stay in your calorie deficit for weight loss. The goal is to be able to add in additional protein without making a significant dent in your daily calories.

Ingredients

What kind of protein do you want? Whey? Vegan? Are you looking for the best women's plant-based protein powders?

Make sure you’re paying attention to the ingredients, including the protein source to make sure it fits your lifestyle. I also recommend taking a look at the fine print and making sure the powder isn’t loaded with a ton of artificial sweeteners and proprietary mixes. A sign of a good protein powder is when it’s been 3rd party-verified.

Furthermore, pay attention to the label and be aware of any additional vitamins or supplements. If you are already fulfilling your intake of certain vitamins and minerals, adding a protein supplement that contains additional dosages can be potentially harmful.

Versatility and Convenience

Protein shakes can be made from powders and mixed up or they can come pre-made. The shake that makes the most sense for you will depend on how and when you plan to use it. For some, pouring a scoop of protein powder and some milk in a shaker cup and mixing up a shake is perfectly convenient. For others, they desire a drink that’s already ready to go.

I also like to look for brands that offer powders in convenient single-serve packets for on-the-go protein. No one wants to tote around a giant tub of protein powder, so choosing a shake that’s easy to take on the go is a must for many.

Our Top-Rated Protein Shakes For Toning and Weight Loss

Ready to find a protein shake that will help you hit your goals? I’ve got you covered! I have personally tried and recommend all of the options below. You really cannot go wrong with any of them if you’re looking for additional protein in your diet that will aid in weight loss, and muscle gain, and give you that lean, toned look you’re looking for.

1. 1st Phorm Level-1

level 1 protein shake for toning

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It’s no secret that 1st Phorm supplements are my bread and butter, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are at the top of the list. 1st Phorm’s Level-1 Protein Shake is one of the smoothest, best-tasting protein supplements on the market.

Level-1 stands out from the crowd by being a sustained assimilation protein, which means that the breakdown and delivery of the protein is slow and sustained, mimicking that of whole food. In contrast, many protein shakes are rapidly digesting, leaving you feeling hungry shortly after consumption. With Level-1, you can count on being fuller for longer, which helps with satiety and minimizes the need for snacking.

1st Phorm uses incredibly high-quality ingredients and always sources and manufactures with integrity. Each serving of Level-1 comes with around 24g of whey protein per serving and 150 calories. Additionally, they add 5g of naturally occurring BCAA (brand chain amino acids) to support muscle growth and repair.

Pros
  • Tons of amazing flavor options available
  • Sustained assimilation so you stay fuller for longer
  • Mixes up quickly and smoothly (no lumps)
  • 24g of protein per serving
Cons
  • They don’t offer the powder in individual packs
  • It’s on the pricier side

2. Ritual

ritual protein shake for toning

If you’re looking for a plant-based protein supplement, Ritual offers an amazing option with their Daily Shake 18+. Ritual, is most well-known for its unique and innovative multivitamins, but they recently launched their plant-based protein and it’s making a big splash.

The Daily Shake 18+ is designed to support the needs of adults between the ages of 18-and 49, assisting with increasing satiety and building lean muscle mass. Each serving contains 20g of protein, 0g sugar, and 150mg of Choline to support brain health.

Ritual’s protein powder is made from clean, traceable ingredients and is 100% sugar-free as it’s sweetened with Monk Fruit and fermented sugar cane (Reb-M). The powder is easy to mix up with any liquid, however, some form of milk tends to be your best option. The flavor is vanilla with subtle nuances of caramel.

Pros
  • Clean ingredients and transparent labeling
  • 0g of sugar per serving
  • 20g of protein and 115 calories per scoop
  • Tastes good with milk
  • Plant-based
Cons
  • There’s currently only one flavor option available
  • It can be a little hard to breakdown, so you need to mix it vigorously
  • It doesn’t come in single-serve packs

3. Clean Simple Eats

clean simple eats proteinac shake toning

Clean Simple Eats is another amazing option for those who are looking for a protein shake that will help them lose weight and tone up. These macro-friendly protein powders come packed with 20g of grass-fed whey protein per serving, just mix it up with water or milk and you have a delicious shake. 

There are 110 calories per serving, which makes this a light protein shake option that is conducive to weight loss. These powders are also free of any artificial sweeteners, flavors, colors, dyes, and preservatives, which tells you that the ingredients are high-quality and trusted.

One thing that stands out with Clean Simple Eats’ protein shakes is that they offer so many different flavors to choose from. They have everything from plain vanilla to cotton candy, so you would be hard-pressed to not find something that you will enjoy.

Pros
  • 115 calories and 20g of protein per serving
  • Clean, simple ingredients
  • Can be used for protein shakes as well as recipes very easily
  • Tons of flavor options
  • You can get it in single servings packs or a whole bag
Cons
  • It’s not fortified with any other nutrients
  • Some people find the flavors to be a little sweet

4. Fairlife Nutrition

fairlife protein shake toning

This is the first actual protein shake to make our list, meaning it’s already mixed up and ready to go, not a powder. These protein shakes are incredibly handy to have on hand for times when you’re on the go and you need something that is quick, convenient, and satisfying.

Each Fairlife Nutrition shake comes with 30g of whey protein and contains just 2g of sugar. Furthermore, the total calories on each bottle are just 150, which is incredible for such a great-tasting product with such high protein content.

There are currently 5 different flavors to choose from, each one offering a great taste. You are not required to refrigerate these shakes, so it’s easy to take them with you anywhere you go and not worry about them spoiling.

Pros
  • Taste great (not chalky!)
  • 5 flavors to choose from
  • Pre-mixed and ready to drink
  • 30g of protein and 150 calories per serving
  • Only 2g of sugar
  • Super convenient for busy, on-the-go times
Cons
  • They don’t feel as filling even though they offer the highest protein content
  • Some of the ingredients are iffy, be sure to check the label to make sure you’re ok with them

5. Slate

slate protein shake toning

Slate is a ready-made protein shake that tastes great and is perfect for those times when you need something quick and you want it to taste good. Each Slate shake contains 20g of protein and 0g of added sugar, making it perfect for anyone who has the goal of losing weight and toning up. 

There are three different flavors to choose from, each one coming in a can with a pop-top. They can be refrigerated, but don’t need to be, so you can easily take them with you wherever you go and have a good source of protein handy. Each serving has only 110 calories

Pros
  • Low calorie, high protein
  • Tastes delicious
  • 0g added sugar
  • Ready-made, so easy to take on the go
Cons
  • The Classic Chocolate flavor is a little chalky
  • It’s not the highest protein content at 20g per serving

Frequently Asked Questions

You've got questions, we've got answers! These are the most common questions when it comes to the relationship between protein and weight loss. Let's take a look!

Can I Drink A Protein Shake If I am Trying to Lose Weight?

Yes, proper protein intake can aid with weight loss. If you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet from whole foods, supplementing with protein shakes can help you to reach your protein goal which will aid in weight loss. Just make sure that you are choosing a shake that’s high in protein and low in calories.

Which Protein Shake Is Best for Weight Loss For Women?

The best protein shake for weight loss for women, or men, for that matter, is the one that you enjoy and that has adequate protein without an excess of additional calories and junk.

Will Protein Shakes Help Me Tone Up?

Consuming the right amount of protein per day for your body and your goals will definitely help you to build muscle and “tone up.”

How Much Protein Do I Need to Look Toned?

There are many factors that go into looking toned, but eating anywhere from .8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight will help you build and maintain muscle while you shed fat, giving you the lean and toned physique that you desire.

The Bottom Line

Personally, I love using protein shakes and protein bars for losing weight as tools for hitting my protein intake goals as they offer the kind of convenience that traditional protein sources can’t. That said, there are a lot of options out there and it’s important to know what to look for so that you can get a shake option that aligns with your goals.

The five protein shakes that I outlined above are all tried and true favorites of mine and I’m excited to share them with you. Each shake provides ample protein and low calories so that you can be sure you’re working to lose weight and get toned when paired with a healthy diet and exercise program.

Tips and Tricks For Success From a Nutritionist

  • Make sure that the bulk of your daily protein is coming from whole food sources. Don’t try to cheat the system by only drinking protein shakes as they don’t contain the same nutrients and don’t give the same satiety signals as eating whole foods.
  • Choose a protein shake that’s convenient for you. If you’re on the go all the time, choosing one that is already mixed up and ready to drink might be your best bet. On the other hand, if you have the time and the supplies on hand, mixing some protein powder with liquid is about as simple as it gets.
  • Track your protein intake daily for a week or two to gauge where your current intake is before supplementing with protein shakes. Make sure you’re aiming for .8-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. 

About the author 

Tami Smith, CPT, Nutritionist

Tami Smith is a certified Nutritionist and an ACE certified fitness trainer, specializing in pre and post-natal fitness. She studied business and earned her bachelor's degree in Business Economics. Tami is a mom of two and women's health advocate. Her passion is to help people live a fit, healthy life through proper nutrition and exercise!

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